I do not feel over-the-top happy, nor can I truly say that I am always full of deep love for others nor can I honestly admit that I never grow sad or have doubts. But I must admit, I am compelled to share that more often than not I do indeed experience joy, more often than not I do indeed feel love and more often than not I do indeed live in an abiding hope. The reason is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Before my conversion to Christianity, or more aptly put, my realization of who Jesus really is, I was not often joyful, I had little love for myself or others and I felt despair more than I felt hope. Jesus made the difference. I came to a small country church in Northern California a young man full of doubt and anger on Easter Sunrise 1980. I had not been to church in years, and though confirmed a Roman Catholic, had decided Christianity - and all religion - was fairly worthless. I went to church at the insistence of a friend, and only because she offered to drive the 60 miles it would it take to get me to that ridiculous (in my mind) place.
Once there I heard it. The resurrection story. I had heard it before, but this was the first time it occurred to me – and it occurred with a power I had never experienced before – that it might be true. The pastor said (he didn’t shout, jump and down, or use other silly histrionics that I loved to mock), “Jesus is alive. He rose from the dead. Buddha remains in his grave. Confucius remains in his grave. Mohamed remains in his grave. Even Moses remains in his grave. But Jesus left his tomb, he is alive.”
It struck me then, and it still does, that if indeed Jesus rose from the dead, then He is who claimed to be - the “Son of God”, whatever that really meant. I felt thunderstruck. Literally, I felt electricity-like charges flow through my body (weird, huh?), and I knew it . . . I just really knew it to be true. Jesus rose from the dead. My life was forever changed. I have been following Jesus as best as I know how, which mostly means relying upon God’s grace with a deep and humble understanding that no really has any sense of God’s true grandeur or power or grace. And as a result a man who used to very much distrust and dislike most people now mostly loves people, and can receive their love; a man who used to sense depression and discouragement (despite being, for that time, fairly “successful” and “popular”) now senses mostly hope, gratitude and faith.
For me, the resurrection is the lynchpin of the Christian faith. The risen Jesus is indeed demonstrated to be the “Lord of All” and the “Son of God” and the “Savior” because of the resurrection. Not just another prophet/martyr/philosopher/guru. The Lord. My Lord.
Following my conversion, several years into my new life as a Christian, I doubted again. What if the resurrection is a fairy tale? My goal was truth, and if there is a God, surely God wanted truth. And if the truth led to the possibility that there is no God (the assumption I had before my conversion) then, well, truth must be truth. What is real is always, in my opinion, better than what is pleasant but illusory.
Researching the resurrection led me down many paths, for this is a topic that has had considerable debate of course, throughout the 2000 year Christian era. I do not here have time to trace out the path of years of examining this core tenant of what led me to experience a life-change. But I can say that I am convinced that the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is an historic fact. The resurrection of Jesus was not a hallucination, a resuscitation, confabulation or a conspiracy. The resurrection of Jesus is simply a fact of history.
Cro-Magnon painted nicely on walls in France. Nefertiti was the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten. Hannibal crossed the Pyrenees with elephants and troops. Jesus rose from the dead. Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States during the Civil War. Americans walked on the moon.
I am a Christian because God changed my heart and because I have become convinced intellectually that Jesus died on a cross and rose from dead. Many historical events have global impact today despite their occurrence long ago (the first stone tool used by ancient humans, the Magna Carta, Hiroshima, etc.). History’s zenith is the resurrection. God gave tangible, clear, powerful evidence of His existence and intimate, compassionate, effective love for all humankind. Jesus is that evidence. The resurrection seals it.
My heart is strangely warmed.